Analyze a problem situation into its basic components.


The following pages contain some force-field analysis memory joggers to use in solving problems for yourself or with others. In using the worksheets, it is critical that you clearly state the particular situation you want changed and then complete the rest of the items in sequence.

Before you begin, it may be helpful to review the following major points about force-field analysis.


Analyze a problem situation into its basic components

Identify the key elements of the problem situation about which
something can realistically be done

Develop a systematic strategy for problem-solving that minimizes
“boomerang” effects and irrelevant efforts

Create a guiding set of criteria for the evaluation of action steps


Any problem situation constitutes a level of activity that is different from that desired. It could be:

The behavior of an individual or group

The current state or condition of an organization

A particular set of attitudes

A frame of mind

The level of activity is the starting point in problem identification and analysis.

Activity Level

This results from a number of simultaneous pressures and influences acting upon the individual, group, or organization in question. The influences, called forces by Kurt Lewin, may be both external and internal to the person or situation in question. Lewin identifies two kinds of forces:

– Restraining forces, which inhibit or oppose the occurrence of the particular activity of concern

– Driving forces, which promote the occurrence of the same activity.


The restraining and driving forces push in opposite directions, and the stronger of the two tend characterize the problem situation. Changes in the strength of either of the fields can cause a change in the activity level of concern.

See example on next page.


Objective: Meet customer commitments by providing service/facilities on a timely (where and when the customer wants it) basis.

Present Level Desired Level Present Level

Restraining Driving
Forces Forces

High Equilibrium Low
Strength Strength

Restraining Forces

1. Lack of proper administration

2. Lack of knowledge of company organization, including company segmentation (cooperation, coordination, identification, communication)

3. Uncertainty about references, i.e., routines and sources to go to for technical information such as references or personnel

4. Lack of technical knowledge

5. Conflicting priorities, i.e., workload, force availability, improper short- and long-range planning

6. Attitudes

Driving Forces

1. Customers’ schedules and satisfaction, including reducing customer complaints

2. Integrity of service (build good company image)

3. Building interdepartmental and departmental relationships

4. Competition

5. Pressure from superiors

6. Paychecks

7. Preventing duplication of effort (make job easier, fewer time restrictions, memory of past negative and positive experiences)

8. Personal accomplishment, including aiding in your own career pathing and chances for promotion

Using a Force-field Analysis

Force-field analysis is a process of problem-solving developed primarily by psychologist Kurt Lewin. By asking a series of questions, we can identify “forces” working to maintain the problem as it exists–restraining forces–and forces working to change–driving forces. Actions can then be decided on, based on the strength of each driving and restraining force. What is important in this activity is identifying those forces that influence the problem(s) your agency may be experiencing.

Here is an example of how force-field analysis can be used:

Mr. Smith is a smoker who wants to stop smoking. He smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. This is a problem.

1. Restraining forces might be:

a. He’s been a smoker for 10 years.
b. There is social pressure to be a smoker.
c. His body is physically addicted to nicotine.
d. His wife is a smoker.
e. His co-workers are smokers.
f. He thinks he enjoys smoking, although he knows it is unhealthy.

2. Driving forces might be:

a. His children have asked him to stop smoking.
b. The price of cigarettes is going up.
c. He has developed a coughing hack.
d. When he jogs, his chest hurts.
e. He knows it is unhealthy.
f. His best friend, Burt, stopped smoking.
g. His father is in the hospital with possible lung cancer after being a heavy smoker for 25 years.

Mr. Smith then looks at the strongest driving forces and can design ways to increase their effect and, likewise, find ways of decreasing the strength of restraining forces. This is the beginning of an action plan.


Force-field Analysis

1. State the problem.

2. Describe the “desired state.”

3. Restraining Forces: What forces operate to keep problem alive? (brainstorm)

4. List restraining forces in order of strength.

5. Which forces do you have some control over or effect on?

6. Driving Forces: What forces operate to change the problem?

7. List driving forces in order of strength.

8. Which of the driving forces do you have some control over or effect on?

9. Try to identify relationships among the restraining forces; for example, the same factor (personnel or climate) may be seen as both a driving and restraining force.

10. Brainstorm actions/steps you can take to increase the driving forces.

11. List resources needed.

12. List resources available.

13. Brainstorm action steps to reduce restraining forces.

14. List resources needed.

15. List resources available.

Chart relative strength of restraining and driving forces with arrows from equilibrium line.

Present Level



Desired Level


Desired Level





Present Level

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